Little tern numbers are on the increase at one of their favoured breeding sites in Australia, a sandbar at Seventeen Seventy.
Little tern numbers are on the increase at one of their favoured breeding sites in Australia, a sandbar at Seventeen Seventy. Contributed

Tiny terns overcome odds and return to Seventeen Seventy

AFTER journeys of sometimes thousands of kilometres, from as far away as China and Siberia, the little terns are returning to Seventeen Seventy.

The endangered little tern, scientific name sternula albifrons, is only 20-28cm from beak to tail and weighs in at around 70g, yet they travel across oceans and continents to nest on a tiny finger of sand in the estuary at Seventeen Seventy.

A decade ago, up to 1000 pairs visited The Discovery Coast, but two years ago none came as the wild weather swept them off course, while those that did nest the year before were inundated by the flooding rains.

But the endangered little tern is coming back and last year Neil Mergard from LARC Environmental Tours reported 80 new chicks made it on that little sand spit.

"Yeah, there were thousands about 8-10 years ago and this big storm blew up one afternoon and just wiped them out," Neil said.

"But they are coming back and quite a few have been arriving this last week and they will be starting to nest almost straight away.''

The little tern lays between one and three speckled eggs and they take around 17-22 days to incubate, with the eggs and chicks only defence being camouflage.

The sand spit at Seventeen Seventy is completely surrounded by water and keeps wild dogs and foxes away.

Workers from LARC Environmental Tours urge visitors to stay at a safe distance as well.



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